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Viney Checks The Rhime

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Luz Noceda was a lot of things. She was a second generation Dominican-American, a burgeoning witch, and a hopeless, if inexperienced, romantic. And despite what most of the adults in her life would say, her interests weren’t actually too out of the ordinary. She enjoyed editing anime AMVs and listening to music in languages she couldn’t understand and any sort of fantasy oriented media, with bonus points towards anything “Good Witch Azura” related. She liked fuzzy stuffed animals and curling up with a good book, body surrounded by soft blankets and pillows while the rain pitter-pattered against the roof and windows of her home, until her eyes were itchy with fatigue and her eyelids drooped.

That was another thing Luz enjoyed. Not being tired specifically, but the weightless expanse of sleep and dreams that would soon follow. A nice catnap or a good night’s rest wasn’t something someone as energetic as her would be expected to appreciate, but when had she ever cared about other people’s expectations? And oh boy was she good at it too. When she wanted to she could fall asleep almost anywhere. On the bus on the way to school? Done. At the art museum her school had gone to for a field trip? Easy peasy. That one roller coaster she had ridden during their annual family trip to the theme park? Her mom claimed that she had actually fainted and not fallen asleep, but Luz disagreed, so she was gonna chalk it up as another example.

And when she slept, she slept hard. If it weren’t for the steady rising of her chest, one could have easily mistaken the Latina teen for having passed away peacefully in the night. Add to her natural ability a fraught school week filled with studying, exams, more studying, more exams, and then a surprise exam right after all the scheduled exams, and she was out like a light. She’d been so exhausted she had actually gone to bed early, changing into her pajamas and snuggling into her sleeping bag just as the sun began to dip behind the horizon.

So it made sense that Luz didn’t stir when the first pebble clacked against the glass of her second story window. It was understandable that she didn’t wake after the second pebble either, or even after the third. But it was a bit ridiculous that she hadn’t even moved after the fourth, fifth, or sixth stone. And it must’ve been getting to the stone-thrower as well, because the next thing Luz knew there was a loud crash and a fist sized rock flying through the window. It landed on the wooden floor of the storage closet that acted as her room with a loud thunk, shards of glass raining down with it.

The round-eared teen sat up, instantly awake. Grabbing a few glyphs from the notepad she kept next to her sleeping roll, she stood and walked carefully to the windowsill, making sure to avoid the shards, and listened intently, trying to hear any signs of movement from outside the house.

“Nice...ng… you... one fucking job. Thr... pebbles… human up. Is… so hard?”

The words were mumbled, whispered almost, as if the speaker were talking to themself instead of to anyone in particular. Luz couldn’t make out most of the words or who the speaker was, but from what she could understand she was positive that whoever was outside was looking for her specifically. Biting her bottom lip she ever so slowly peeked her head out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of whoever had disturbed her rest. And there, two stories below, pacing back and forth with her head in her hands was

“Viney?” Luz called, swiftly tapping a Light glyph from her deck of spells to illuminate the darkened night time exterior.

The pacing teen looked up. “Luz! Hey! Fancy uh, seeing you here?” she called back, a nervous smile on her face. 

“Viney I live here.” deadpanned Luz. “And did you break my window? What’s up with that man?”

Viney’s faux smile slid off her face, replaced instead with a rather sheepish look as she scuffed the toe of her boot into the dirt. “Yeah, uh, sorry about that. I’ll fix it though! I promise. But can you come down here? I sorta need your help with something.”

A quick look at her phone told Luz it was half past eleven and while she would’ve loved to head straight back to sleep, she wasn’t just gonna leave her friend in the lurch was she? If Viney was here, throwing stones and (accidentally) destroying property to get her attention, it must be for an important reason right? She sighed, rubbing her eyes in an attempt to clear the sleep from them. “Ok sure,” Luz replied, stifling back a yawn. “But give me a minute to put on pants and stuff ok?”

“Yes!” Viney cried. “Thank you so much Luz, you’ve got no idea how much this means to me.” The older teen beamed up at Luz, before seemingly catching herself as she noticed the younger girl’s raised eyebrow while she leaned out the shattered window. “Oh! And I’ll uh, fix that while you get ready.”

 

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One fixed window and a set of clothes later, Luz was standing out in the grass besides Viney, shivering in the cool night air. Sure, she had her cat hoodie on, but if she was being honest she wore that more for the cuteness factor than for any sort of warmth it provided, and the cool night breeze was a far cry from the warmth of her blankets. Viney seemed comfortable though. She was dressed in a simple grey sweatshirt, black leggings, and black boots. But fashion and shivering aside, Luz still didn’t have any idea why she was out here, and so she voiced her question to the witch standing in front of her. 

Viney grinned before beginning to speak. “Right! Let's get down to business yeah? I need your help finding something.”

Luz blinked before frowning slightly. Finding something? She’d been woken up in the middle of the night just to help find something? Viney seemed to recognize the confusion on her face however, and the older girl continued before Luz could even open her mouth. “Yeah yeah I know, you’re probably thinking like, ‘finding something? What kinda bullshit reason is that?’. But it’s a Human thing so I’m a little bit out of my comfort zone with this one y’know?”

“I guess that makes sense,” Luz thought. “I am the only Human on the Boiling Isles after all, so it tracks that Viney would come to me for this kind of stuff.” Luz thought a second longer before speaking. “Alright, so what human thing do you need help with finding? Some movies? Clothes?” The younger girl winced. “Alcohol? Cause if that’s what you're looking for I can’t really help you with that one, I’m too young to get anything for you.”

Viney let out a short bark of laughter, a loud “Ha!” that reverberated out into the night sky. “No it’s definitely not alcohol. Neither Jerbo or I drink, and I’m fairly certain it would literally kill Barcus if he had any, so that’s out. Here’s what I do need though.” The witch’s face grew serious as she put both hands on Luz’ shoulders, drawing their face closer together. Viney’s green eyes stared intently into brown ones, before she spoke in the most serious tone Luz had ever heard her use.

“I need you to help me find something that’s got the Spifoty.”

Luz blinked twice before letting out a nervous chuckle. “The uh, the what?”

Viney’s hands left Luz’ shoulders, tossed into the air above Viney’s head as she raised her arms in exasperation. “You know! The Spifoty! Or, shit, was that it? Or was it Sopifty? No, it definitely wasn’t that. Spofipy?” She paused in her rambling, looking back at Luz with a pleading look in her eyes as the younger teen tried to not fall over laughing at the ridiculous words Viney was creating in her attempts to remember. “Come on Luz! this is like your bread and butter here!”

Luz didn’t respond immediately. She was laughing way too hard to be able to, clutching at the sides of her stomach with one arm while she tried to cover her mouth with the other hand. “O-Ok, just.” She said, continuing to laugh. “G-Gimme a second.”

With some deep breaths and only a few errant chuckles, Luz managed to calm down enough to speak normally. “Phew! That. Was really funny.” Luz chuckled again, before clearing her throat and setting her face determinedly. “Ok, so what do you know about this ‘Spifoty’?” she asked, adding air quotes with her fingers around the offending word. 

“Uh, ok, shoot. It's something you Humans use on your not-scrolls? I think? Oh! And it’s green. Definitely very green, I’m sure about that.” said Viney. “On phones and green?” Luz thought. “What on earth is this girl -” Her thought was cut off with the realization. Green? On mobile devices? Starts with “Sp”? It was so painfully obvious now, how had she not realized it before? “You’re looking for something with Spotify on it?” Luz asked, bewildered.

Viney’s eyes lit up like a kid who’d woken up and remembered it was Christmas morning. “Yes! That's it! Hells, ‘Spotify’, no wonder I couldn’t remember the name. What the Hells is a ‘Spotify’?” Luz blinked, realizing for once that she didn’t actually know what a Spotify was either, outside of the context of the app. “Must be one of those made up words I guess, like jabberwocky. Or gerrymandering.” But back to the point. “Why do you need Spotify though Viney? You probably won’t even be able to get it to work here on the Isles.” said Luz.

The older girl just waved her hand. “Nah nah nah it’ll work. My parents have a buddy who works with converting your ‘techno’ whatevers into stuff that works over here. According to them he goes on and on about this process where he transfers it all to our scrolls. All I need is something that can run this ‘Spotify’ thing and I’m golden.” 

“And I can’t just give you mine to borrow for a bit?” asked Luz. Viney shook her head. “For whatever reason your human tech doesn’t mesh too well with the magic. I’ve heard he can get one or two transfers before the original piece fries and becomes unusable. Which I assume is something you don’t want happening to yours.” Luz gulped and shook her head no. She very much didn’t want to lose the only communication she had with home, thank you very much. Viney chuckled. “Yeah that’s fair. No worries though, I’ve just gotta get one of my own then.”

Viney grinned deviously before speaking again. “And that’s where you come in. All you gotta do is come with me to the Night Market and help me find one of your human thingies.” The witch bumped Luz on the shoulder playfully before beginning to walk towards the road. “Come on,” she called. “Market closes around two, so we’ve got time but it’s still best to hurry.”

“Night Market? Isn’t that the place Eda got scammed a while back?” Luz thought anxiously before moving to catch up with Viney. Last time Luz had heard anything about the Night Market she’d been caught up with planning with Willow and Gus for their Moonlight Conjuring. And while the three had gotten a glimpse of it when they mistakenly wrecked Tibbles’ stall (as well as a fair bit of the entire city) with an animated Hooty, Luz hadn’t had a chance to inspect the market herself, so she wasn’t sure what to expect from it. 

“Oh god, is it like the black market?” Luz thought. Images of seedy warehouses filled with arms shipments, locked containers brimming with narcotics, and bathtubs filled with ice and unwilling organ donors all began to fill her head. “What uh,” she began nervously, now walking in step with the older girl. “What’s the Night Market?”

“Oh y’know, it’s just like the regular market. But at night.” Viney replied cheekily. Luz blinked, fears partially assuaged. But still, she’d feel a bit safer with more information. “That’s it? Just the normal market, but at night? There’s no like, kidnappers? Or people trying to sell you guns?”

Viney responded without hesitation. “Well I don’t know what a gun is, but I know for certain there aren’t any kidnappers. And yep, just a normal market.” She paused for a moment, considering something before she continued. “Sure, there’s a greater chance that you might get pickpocketed or what you’re buying is stolen or smuggled goods, but everyone usually turns a blind eye to stuff like that. Any sort of real trouble would mean the guards would actually have to pay close attention to the area, which would mean less profit, so the merchants all make sure nothing serious happens.” Viney turned and gave a reassuring smile to the younger teen walking beside her. “Relax,” she said. “It’s totally safe and only a little bit illegal. Sorta like jaywalking y’know?”

Luz nodded, the words of a wise man echoing in her mind. “Yeah. It’s a fantasy crime.” Viney chuckled in response. “Heh, fantasy crime. That's a good one Luz.” The two kept walking in companionable silence, the noisy chirps and occasional muffled screams of the Mossy-Mouthed crickets filling the night air. The pair were nearly at the market before Viney spoke again.

“Of course, if we were headed to the Underground Market instead of just the night one, that would be different. That place is just crawling with criminals.”

 

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The two teens had been browsing the Night Market for a little bit longer than half an hour. It was busier than Luz had expected for something that was still technically illegal, with throngs of people circling around the market booths. Sellers called out sales and prices, hoping to enchant a buyer (in some cases literally) into purchasing their wares. And despite the lively atmosphere and perceived safety, Luz still hadn’t felt completely secure among the booths and tables. It wasn’t until she watched a city guard come between two squabbling merchants, ending the argument quickly and leaving both peddlers with only a warning that Luz realized how ridiculous she was being. The teen had literally staged a prison break on her first day here and lived with the most wanted criminal on the Boiling Isles, and she was nervous about being around people trying to make a slightly illicit living? One that was essentially overlooked by the authorities?

So the teen had tried to loosen up a bit and actually enjoy her time in the Night Market. She let her shoulders relax from the stiff position they’d been sitting in and began looking around the tables and stalls. The things being sold were among the wildest and outlandish she’d ever seen, which said a lot for the Boiling Isles. A fairy was selling roses that bloomed forever and changed color depending on your mood. Unless you happened to be angry, as the roses would then summarily explode. There was a ring that inhaled fire, with a large sign sitting next to it that claimed it was the “best way to clean up any incendiary messes.” The next stall over from there was a man selling a chest that spat acid at anyone who tried to steal it. A security measure, he cheerily assured the passing customers, that was completely unrelated to the bandages covering his hands and face. And as Luz walked and inspected each stall with Viney at her side, the young Latina realized something.

“You know, you never told me why you needed this so bad Viney,” said Luz, picking up a small enchanted switchblade off the stand she was browsing, before swiftly placing it back down with a small yelp when it growled at her. The older girl glanced over then rubbed the back of her neck, almost as if she were embarrassed. “I uh, I didn’t? Well um, I guess it just seems like a cool thing to have you know? Being able to explore other cultures and stuff through music?” Viney said hesitantly, staring intently at the woodgrain of the booth before looking back to the younger girl, only to be met with Luz’ skeptical stare, her left eyebrow raised.

The witch sighed, deflating slightly under Luz’ intent stare. “Ok, yeah that’s not the truth. Or, well it is, it’s just not the whole truth. And I’ll tell you, but!” she pointed a only slightly accusing finger towards Luz’ direction. “You gotta promise you won't freak out or anything.” 

Luz cracked a smile before giving an exaggerated bow towards Viney. “You have my word, my lady.” Viney chuckled, before giving a small nod of her head to the left. “Come on ya dork. Let’s go find somewhere to sit.”

It didn’t take long for the pair to find an empty bench. It was right outside the entrance of the Night Market, so they could head directly back in and keep looking once they were done talking. They sat, with Luz placing her hands on her knees, bouncing her legs excitedly. “Alright now spill!” the younger teen said, anxious to learn about whatever hot gossip had led Viney to need some human technology so badly. Viney rolled her eyes comically as she sat, before lightly tapping Luz’ bouncing leg with her boot. “Not too good of a start for ‘not freaking out’ huh?” she quipped. “Weh!” went Luz, somehow managing to make a sound of surprise that Viney had never heard and had no clue how to replicate. “Sorry, sorry.” the Latina finished, before miming herself locking her lips and throwing away the key before sitting patiently on the bench.

“Alright. So, I was hanging out with Em. Uh, I mean, Emira. Blight. You know her right? You’re friends with her sister so you probably do. But uh, she’d invited me to come over for a study session or whatever for the Gen. Ed. classes we’re both in. Y’know, history, math, those ones.” Viney rambled, not catching the knowing light in Luz’ eyes. “But we’re sitting on her bed with our books just talking, and all of sudden she just says ‘I wanna show you something’ and starts digging through her closet?”

“So she pulls out this record and puts it on her record player, because of course she has one of those in her room. And I remember thinking ‘Oh cool, I don’t listen to much music, so let's see if I’m into whatever she’s into’. So it starts and there’s these drums and some horns, and that’s cool and all, but then she starts dancing! I mean, she was just goofing around and laughing and stuff, it wasn’t complicated like an actual routine or anything like that, but now I can’t get it out of my head!” Viney cried, looking to her left at the girl sitting beside her. She waited for a second for a reply, or really just any type of participation from Luz in the conversation, until the younger girl pointed at her lips and tilted her head in question. Viney chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Yes Luz, you can talk now.”

Luz smiled and quickly made the motion to unlock her lips. “Which part can you not get out? The music? Or Emira dancing?” Viney blinked. “W-what?” she said. “The uh, the music! Duh!” the witch finished, crossing her arms and looking anywhere and everywhere that wasn’t Luz, a small blush forming on her face.

“Uh huuuuh.” Luz drawled doubtfully. It seemed if the Latina teen wanted more information she’d have to get it in a more indirect way. “So? What was it like? The music I mean.” Luz asked after a short pause. Viney looked back and shook her head in response. “I’ve never heard anything like it man. Like I said it was all drums and horns, and then like these super low notes? And then there were these guys who were… I dunno what they were doing, but they weren’t singing. It was almost like they were reading poetry or something.”

Luz nodded. She didn’t really listen to hip hop or rap, but Viney’s description seemed to work with what little she knew of it. Heavy basslines, drum loops, almost spoken word style delivery, it all fit the bill. That said, she knew basically nothing else about that genre of music. Most of her playlists were made up of old classic rock songs that her Mamá would play around the house or of foreign pop songs from her favorite overseas groups. But still, she wanted to help her friend out, and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t the least bit curious about whatever Viney had listened to that had her so invested. Maybe she wouldn’t like it, but Luz’d listen to anything once if it meant increasing the range of her musical palate. “Do you know what the album was called?”

Viney froze momentarily, racking her brain trying to remember if she had ever gotten the name of the record. “Shit,” she mumbled. “Ok, I don’t know the name of it but that’s fine. I know it had this person on it? They were covered in this green and red paint that was put on in a striped pattern or something. It’s fine though, I’ll just ask Em on Monday when we -” she stopped dead, face heating up slightly at what she almost had revealed. Luz leaned in with a Cheshire grin sitting on her face. “When you and Emira do what?” She asked in a singsong voice, bumping Viney’s arm with her shoulder.

Viney buried her now fully blushing face in her hands and mumbled out a response. “When she and I go out to dinner Monday night.”

Luz squealed in excitement, a shrill, piercing sound that made Viney look up from her hands and glare at the teen next to her. “Come on man, you said you wouldn’t freak!” Viney said sternly. Luz raised her hands in apology before sniffling. “I’m sorry! I’m just,” the younger girl’s eyes began to water slightly, and for a split second Viney thought she’d upset her. But that momentary fear was almost immediately dashed by Luz’s next words. “I’m just so proud! Our little Viney has a crush!” Luz sniffed again and wiped an imaginary tear from her eye. “Oh they grow up so fast!” she exclaimed with a wide smile.

Viney’s eyes narrowed. “Ok, first of all, I’m older than you,” she started. “And second of all, even if,” the witch paused and looked around to make sure no one was listening before her posture deflated slightly and she continued in a hushed voice. “Even if I hypothetically had a crush on her, it wouldn’t matter. There’s no way she’d like me back. We’re just friends.” 

Luz just scoffed in return. “You do realize I’m in the same school as you two now right? Which means we have the same lunch now too. So trust me when I say this Viney, Emira stares at you a lot. And I mean A LOT a lot.” she emphasized.

The blush was creeping farther up Viney’s face, starting to just barely redden the tips of her pointed ears. She was incredibly thankful it was dark out, otherwise Luz would have a clear view of just how flushed she was getting. Curse her naturally pale skin. And yeah, Luz was right. Viney had definitely noticed Emira staring at her during the lunch periods they shared. Hells, one time she had even winked when their eyes met. She’d nearly given Viney a heart attack from that alone. But there was no way that could actually have meant anything. Not anything real at least. But before Viney could say something along those lines, Luz was already talking again.

“Where is she taking you?” Luz asked. Viney blinked. “What?” she said, mentally shaking herself to regain composure and pay attention to the conversation. “Where is she taking me when?” she finished. 

“Where is she taking you for dinner Monday! Duh!” Luz said, wide smile still present and legs beginning to bounce again. Duh was right indeed. Anyone who hadn’t had their head in the clouds thinking about certain other people could have realized what Luz was asking. “Oh uh, it’s some place called the ‘Sunset Manticore’? I think that’s where we’re going at least.” Viney answered, only to be met with a smug smile and a knowing look on Luz’ face.

“Look, Viney,” the Latina started. “I know I’ve only been here for like, three weeks, but even I know that the Sunset Manticore isn’t a place you take a girl because you want to be ‘Just Friends.’” said Luz, adding finger quotes for extra emphasis.

Viney stilled. The restaurant was in the more expensive part of Bonesborough wasn’t it? A place her family would never be able to afford. And yeah she knew the Blights were rich, but spending that kind of money on a private dinner at a high end restaurant, just for a friend? That was a lot, even for them.

She blanched, the reality of the situation sinking in. Was she positive Luz was right? No, but the younger teen was definitely making a lot of good points. Hells, what was she gonna do? If, and it was a major if, Viney reminded herself, taking great care not to get her hopes up. But if Emira liked her as more than just a friend, and if the study hangouts and the lunchtime staring and their occasional non-school related meetup was more than just gals being pals, and if this dinner was supposed to actually mean something real, then how the Hells was Viney going to deal with this? She wasn’t in denial, she was very much aware of what the sweaty palms and butterflies in her stomach signified. But pining over someone is considerably easier and less involved than flirting or actually trying to make a move.

She’d been sitting here lost in her thoughts for too long Viney realized. Luz was still there sitting on the bench and staring at the older witch expectantly. “Fuck.” Viney muttered, drawing a laugh out of Luz. “You’ll be fine I promise.” the younger girl reassured. “I mean, you do like her back right?”

Hells, what was there not to like? Emira was gorgeous. Perfect amber colored eyes floated in an ocean of ivory skin, the mole under her eye an island refuge for those lost at sea. And her figure . She didn’t exactly tower over Viney, but she definitely had a few inches on her, and it all just served to accentuate her shapely frame and long legs that Viney couldn’t help but sneak a glance at from time to time.

And Hells she was funny. There was hardly an interaction between the two that didn’t have Viney doubled over in laughter, tears in her eyes and cramps in her sides because of whatever Em had said or done. And sure, Viney knew that the older Blight could be a bit much, especially when compounded with her twin and set against their younger sister. But for all her familial teasing, Emira wasn’t mean. She’d shown Viney that in so many ways, like offering to help Viney with the griffins after school, or telling her, in confidence of course, that she was actually incredibly proud of her stubborn little sister. Or that one time Emira had her illusory self take notes in the classes she and Viney shared when the latter was too sick to come into school. Emira herself hadn’t been taking the notes of course, she’d ditched class with her male counterpart that day, but it was the thought that counted.

So yeah. Viney liked Emira, and she liked her a lot .

The older teen groaned, putting her head in her hands. “Yes I like her back, but what am I supposed to do about it?” she asked, clearly distressed.

Luz shrugged. “Don’t do anything.” she said matter-of-factly, as if it were the obvious answer. Viney blinked before giving a confused look at the human teen sitting next to her. “What?” she asked incredulously. Luz just smiled back at her and placed a hand on Viney’s arm. “Go to the dinner. Don’t stress about it or anything like that. Just be yourself and while you’re there, maybe give her some compliments or a gift when you arrive or something. See how that goes over and find out for yourself whether or not she seems interested.”

“And if you get to the point where you’re thinking, ‘ok this could work’, just keep going! From what I know about Emira, she likes it when people are real. She doesn’t need any huge gestures of undying love or anything like that. She wants genuineness, so like I said, just be yourself Viney, and I’m certain it will go great.” Luz finished with a reassuring smile.

Viney closed her eyes in thought, mulling over Luz’ words before she started to nod. “Yeah.” she started. “Yeah I think you’re right. If I end up doing this it should be chill like you said.” The older witch looked over and returned Luz’ smile, if only a little bit more unsure. “Thanks Luz.” Viney said. “That really helps actually.”

“No prob Bob!” Luz replied cheerily. “I know it doesn’t seem like it but I’m actually reaaaallly good at this relationship stuff.”

“Uh huh.” Viney replied drily, images of the blushing younger Blight stuttering and stammering in front of Luz while the human girl looked on obliviously appearing in her head. 

“Oh!” said Luz. “Question for you though. Is that why you wanted the music? So you could show Emira?” the teen finished, cocking her head at the older witch. Viney scratched the back of her head as she spoke. “Well uh, that's part of it. I mean she’s only got the one album so I’m sure she’d appreciate having more of their stuff.” Viney chuckled. “Although, I kinda want it for myself as well. I think I’m gonna have my guy set it up on Em’s scroll too, that way we can both have that ‘Spotify’ thing. Because wow Luz, whoever these people are, their music is really good.” she finished enthusiastically. 

Luz chuckled. “Yeah, the human realm definitely has a lot of good music. Once we get this set up for you I’ll show you some of my favorites yeah?” 

“Sounds good to me man.” Viney said with a smile that quickly morphed into a frown. “First we gotta find one of those not scrolls though.” she finished, looking back at the entrance to the Night Market.

“Phones.” replied Luz, taking her own out to check the time. It read 12:04 pm. At Viney’s questioning glance, the human teen clarified her response. “The ‘not scroll’ we’re looking for. It’s called a phone.”

“Huh.” said Viney, filing the information away for later use. She stood from the bench, Luz quickly following suit. “Well alright then. Let’s go find us a phone.” And with that, the two headed back into the Night Market.

 

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God she was tired.

They’d spent another hour just searching through the market stalls and had found nothing. It was almost one in the morning, and while Luz didn’t regret accompanying Viney to the market, she was missing her sleeping bag more and more every minute. Hells what she’d give to be back among her blankets, King nestled comfortable in the crook of her legs. She chuckled to herself, recognizing that she’d used the term almost everyone on the Boiling Isles used. Luz still wasn’t sure what it meant or implied, but she knew for a fact that the pastor at the church her mamá (and occasionally Luz whenever her mother decided it was worth the hassle to get her to come) attended wouldn’t be happy to hear her replacing “God” in her vernacular with “Hells”.

Or would he be happier? There was that whole bit about not taking the name in vain or something. Eh, Luz didn’t know and didn’t really care. Her mind was growing weary and thinking major philosophical thoughts like that just wasn’t going to work without a good night’s rest beforehand. Her eyes were getting itchy with fatigue too, the items on the stalls beginning to blur together. A sword that never grew dull. A key that unlocks any non-magical lock. A collection of crystalized tears. An Iphone box. A clutch of griffin eggs. A pair of earrings made of - wait, hold on what?

Luz spun around, quickly heading back to the table with the brand name item. A large demon man stood behind the table. He had a large scar over one of his eyes and had massive tusks emerging from his mouth, giving him a half elephant half humanoid appearance. He wasn’t wearing a shirt either, opting instead to wear a type of vest that didn’t really cover anything. His muscles were clearly on display, bulging out from his gray skin as if he’d been cut from marble. “Can I uh,” Luz started, gesturing to the box in front of her. The muscle demon grunted and nodded his head, and so Luz gingerly took the box in her hands and opened it.

And there it was. Luz quickly took the phone in her hands and inspected it. It looked fine, no major scratches or dents. Beaming, she quickly turned around and yelled into the crowd. “Viney! Come here I found it!” she cried. A moment or so later, Viney was standing next to her, inspecting the phone. “So that's it then?” the witch replied, curiously inspecting the item in Luz’ hands. “Alright then.” she said, turning to address the demon man behind the table. “How much?”

The man grunted. “That depends.” he said, voice rough and gravelly. “Are the two of you acquainted with the concept of Microeconomics?”

The girls blinked and looked at each other, completely thrown for a loop at the man’s question. “What?” they asked in unison. “Microeconomics.” the man repeated before sighing. “Supply and demand.” he clarified. Luz blinked. She knew the term obviously, or at least had a very surface level understanding of what it meant, but she didn’t know what the man was driving at or how it was related to what they were purchasing.

“Um, yeah!” she lied. “Supply and demand. We know all about that right Viney?” Luz said, shooting a quick elbow into Viney’s ribs, causing the girl to grunt in pain and breathlessly agree. “Yep,” she affirmed with a wince and gritted teeth. “Love it when things are supplied and demanded.”

“But uh,” Luz continued. “Mind explaining why it has to do with us buying this from you?” she finished. The man sighed and drew a hand over his face before pinching the bridge of his nose. “When I found this thing,” the demon started. “I thought it was a fancy paperweight. Didn’t even think to open up the box. But you did, and now I’m just finding out that this thing was in there.” he paused before continuing again. “And I’ll be honest. I don’t know what this is. But you two clearly do, and from the way your friend here called you over,” he said while looking towards Viney. “You two clearly want it. There’s a high demand, and a low supply. Which means I can price it however I want.”

The two teens looked at each other confused as the man took out a small pad of paper and a pencil and placed a small pair of reading glasses onto his face. He jotted a few things onto the pad before looking up, removing his glasses and placing them back onto the table. “Six hundred snails.” he said decisively.

Luz and Viney’s eyes widened. “Six hundred?!” shouted Luz, undoubtedly causing a few other shoppers to look over in curiosity. Luz didn’t have any money, she hadn’t known they were going to the market when they left, and she was almost certain Viney didn’t have that kind of funding either. Luz looked over at the witch, apology for the whole night being a waste on the tip of her tongue, before she stopped. Viney didn’t look upset, she looked… thoughtful, staring down at the phone with furrowed eyebrows before looking back at the man in front of them.

“You don’t know what this is?” Viney asked, pointing to the phone. “Correct.” the demon replied.

“So, reasonably, you don’t know how much it should cost right?” Viney continued. The demon nodded. “Also correct.”

“So theoretically,” Viney began. “If you were to lose it in a bet, it wouldn’t be too big of a blow would it? I mean, you don’t even know what it is or what to price it at, so it isn’t a major loss of value is it?” she finished.

The demon paused, considering her words. He grunted. “You’re smart, I’ll give you that. So you want to wager for it then?” Viney nodded. “What are the terms?” the man asked. “I’ll arm wrestle you for it.” Viney replied confidently. “If I win, I get it free. If you win, I’ll pay double.”

The man stared at her for a second before he began to laugh, a loud, almost hyena-like howl that inherently contradicted the rough and low voice he usually spoke in. And then, almost as if he pulled a lever or twisted a valve, the laugh stopped suddenly. He began clearing the table, creating a large space that he then placed his arm on, taking up the classic arm wrestling position. His bicep flexed, and Luz realized with a start that it was probably bigger than her head. “Alright then girl. Let’s get it done with.”

Viney grinned at the man, quickly shimmying out of the jacket she’d been wearing up until now, leaving her in just a yellow and blue striped tee shirt, a large Hexside logo adorning the back side. And as she took up the position, hand grasping the demon’s, Luz made a startling revelation.

Viney was... surprisingly buff.

Her arms were obviously nowhere close to the size of the demon merchant, but they were well defined, with wiry muscles clearly born from some sort of intensive labor. It made sense that Luz wouldn’t have known, she’d only ever seen Viney in school clothes until this very night, and up until now she’d been in her sweatshirt. It was still quite a shock to see though, but as she watched Viney and the vendor align themselves for the competition, Luz felt herself becoming cautiously optimistic. Their chances were no longer cosmically abysmal. Now they were probably only a little bit worse than the odds of winning the Powerball, so somewhere in the range of one in two hundred and ninety million. 

“Other girl.” the man grunted as he looked at Luz. “Perform a countdown from three.” He turned to address Viney. “We start when she says go. Is that acceptable to you?” he finished. Viney nodded, readjusting her position on the table. “Works for me.” the witch said.

“Uh. I guess I’ll start then?” said Luz. “Three, two, one, go.” she finished calmly, voice not betraying the tight bundle of nerves curled tightly in her stomach.

It almost seemed like the two hadn’t heard her countdown. They were completely still, and if it weren’t for the bulging of both parties’ respective biceps Luz wouldn’t have been able to tell that they’d started at all. Viney and the man stared at each other, intense gaze locked on intense gaze. They stayed like that for what felt like hours, both straining against the other and both making zero progress, but a quick glance at her phone told Luz that the match had only been going for a few minutes. It was incredible that Viney was managing to hold her own against a man with muscles that would have rivaled Schwarzenegger’s in his heyday.

And then, ever so slightly, the man’s arm began to tilt to the left, now a fraction of an inch closer to hitting the table. He blinked, looking down at his hand and momentarily breaking the unofficial staring contest he’d been maintaining with Viney. Again, another shift in the balance, Viney’s arm slowly gaining ground against the man’s. They continued like that for at least fifteen minutes. A slight progression and a long stretch where neither moved, before the whole process repeated. Luz watched intently, the minutes passing slower than a snail stuck in glue. 

A droplet of sweat ran down the demon man’s face. His arm was beginning to shake slightly, but miraculously, Viney’s remained steadfast, the only movement being the minor adjustments she made in her stance and the occasional shift of the man’s arm closer to the table. Another quick glance at her phone told Luz it was now 1:53 in the morning, the two contenders having reached the eighteen-minute mark. The market would be closing soon, and while Viney had made leaps and bounds compared to the man, his arm was only at around a forty-five degree angle in relation to the table. If Viney kept up her current pace, it would be at least another twenty minutes before the match was over.

And that was time the man didn’t have. He was tired, and hungry, and he wanted to go home and slip out of his clothes and into the sheets of his bed where his husband awaited him. He let his eyes flick to the large, ornamental clock that was being sold at the stall across the street. 1:54 it read. He groaned mentally. He should be clearing up by now. And all this for what? A stupid rectangle that he couldn’t identify or even price properly? If these girls wanted it so bad they could have it, all that mattered to him right now was getting out of here. He sighed and began to loosen his grip and the tightness of his arm muscles, allowing the young witch to surge forward and tap his hand against the wood of the market stall.

Viney blinked. She’d expected at least another ten to fifteen minutes before she’d have gotten there naturally, but this worked too. Viney released her grip from the man’s hand and shook her arm out quickly, before meeting his gaze with a grin. “You put up a good fight.” she said, meaning every word of it. The man grunted before placing the phone back into its box, handing the package to Viney. The witch in turn handed it to Luz before picking up the pullover she’d dropped on the ground, swiftly putting it back on before Luz returned the box and Viney placed it in her sweatshirt pocket. “Now scram.” said the demon man.

The two quickly walked back into the dissipating crowds, Luz yelling a quick “Thank you!” over her shoulder as they left. When she turned though, she fixed the witch walking next to her with an astonished look. “Viney.” Luz started, voice betraying just how in awe she was. “What the fuck was that?!” she cried.

Viney glanced over at Luz and chuckled. “It wasn’t anything difficult,” she admitted, although her sore arm protested otherwise. “Just had to outlast him. A person built like that is strong, but all you have to do is beat them through endurance. ” Luz looked at her incredulously before shaking her head. “‘Not a big deal’ she says. Viney, that guy was HUGE!” Luz cried again, taking her finger and poking at Viney’s bicep through the witch’s sweatshirt. “How did you manage to get so strong?!” she questioned wide-eyed.

The witch shrugged. “I’ve gotta haul the feed bags up the griffin tower like every other school day. And trust me, that’s a lot of steps with some very heavy bags. I guess it all just started adding up.” Viney paused, considering something. “Plus, y’know Puddles is pretty friendly, so I’ve gotta hold him back if he starts getting too affectionate with people. Don’t want him crushing anybody!” she finished with a smile.

“Ok yeah that tracks.” Luz replied, the two having made their way out of the market and onto the main road. “Now what though? You’ve got the phone now, which is great! But do we go to your guy now or something? What’s the next step?”

Viney scoffed and turned to meet Luz’ gaze with a questioning look. “Dude. It’s like two in the morning. Next step is us getting into our respective beds and going the Hells to sleep.” she said with a chuckle. Luz started to respond but cut herself off with a loud yawn, the mention of sleep drawing it out of her. “Yeah.” she responded. “That sounds really nice right now.”

Viney chuckled. “Yeah I’m beat too. I’ll walk you home first, only fair since I basically stole you away in the middle of the night.” Luz laughed and shook her head amused. “Well you definitely did that.” she said.

The two walked in a companionable silence for a while, each girl admiring the clear night sky and yearning for the comfort of the bed waiting for them at their respective homes. Luz broke the silence suddenly. “What do you think you’ll listen to first? When you get everything set up I mean.”

Viney pursed her lips and considered the question. “Well I’m definitely going to listen to some more of that group Em showed me.” the witch said, inadvertently using the nickname for her minty haired possibly-more-than-friend. “And then I guess just trying to find more stuff like them? They were really neat though, so I don’t know how easy it’ll be trying to find something that good again.” Viney admitted with a smile, the two teens rounding the bend in the road, the Owl House now in sight.

Luz laughed quietly, taking care not to wake any of the other residents in the house they were rapidly approaching. “That's fair. Once you find out what they’re called from Emira you should tell me yeah? I’ll try and see if in my infinite wisdom I know of anything similar.” Luz said with a smile, mentally acknowledging that she had absolutely no knowledge of the genre and any “recommendations” would be coming directly from a quick google search.

Viney smiled at her as the two stopped on the doorstep of the Owl house, taking special care to not wake Hooty from his slumber. “Sounds like a plan Luz. And I know this whole thing was kinda impromptu, but it was fun! We should hang out again sometime soon, I’m sure Jerbo and Barcus would love to see you again.” Viney said. Luz beamed at the prospect of seeing the rest of her former Detention Track friends again. “Sure! That sounds like a great idea.” she replied.

Viney nodded back at her with a grin before taking a step back off of the house’s small porch. “Alright,” the witch started. “I’m gonna head out now though ok? Cause it’s super late and we both need to get some sleep.” Viney finished with a chuckle. Luz nodded back, another yawn making its way out of her. “Yeah definitely. I’ll see you later Viney.” the girl finished, moving to open the door. “Later Luz.” Viney replied, turning on her heel and beginning to make her way back to the road.

“Oh and Viney?” Luz called over her shoulder, quiet voice carrying easily over the dew drizzled grass. The witch turned back momentarily, looking at Luz as she stood in the doorway. “Make sure to think about the stuff we decided on before your dinner date with Emira ok?” she finished, a sleepy smile on her face.

Viney felt her face flush, the urge to call it not a date rising before her mind reminded her that, at least according to Luz, there was a fairly good chance that it was in fact a date. “Yeah. I’ll uh, make sure to do that. Thanks Luz.” she finished with a smile. “No problem Viney.” Luz acknowledged, before she wished the older witch a goodnight and headed inside.

Quietly, Luz made her way up the stairs and back into her room. She quickly shucked her clothes off and changed back into the pajama shorts and tank-top she’d been wearing earlier in the night. She tip-toed to where her sleeping bag lay on the floor, careful not to disturb King as he lay at the foot of her bed. “He must’ve come in while I was gone.” Luz thought with a smile. “Heh. What a cutie.” her mind continued as she gingerly slipped into the sleeping bag. Sensing movement though, King shifted and woke.

“Luz?” his squeaky little voice called. “Where’d you go?” he asked. Luz yawned in reply, smooshing her face into the soft pillows. “Just on a little night time adventure.” she responded. 

“Without me? You should’ve woken me up!” King admonished. Luz chuckled as she shut her eyes. “Sleepy demon kings need their beauty rest too though King.” Luz said, feeling herself drift deeper. The little demon just huffed at that, and Luz rolled her eyes behind her shut eyelids. “Here,” she mumbled, opening her arms and creating a space next to her. “I’ll make it up to you with snuggies.” she finished.

There was a pause before King responded. “That is adequate repayment.” he decided, moving to settle in the space Luz had created before the human teen closed her arms and held him close, giving him a small peck on the top of his head. “But you’ll bring me with you next time you have a fun midnight adventure right?” King asked, little tail wagging as he shut his eyes and nuzzled against Luz’ chest. “Mmhm.” Luz responded, already mostly asleep. “Ok good.” King said, judging Luz’ half awake affirmation as good enough for him. Luz’ breathing settled and King’s followed swiftly after, both falling into a blissfully deep and dreamless sleep.

 

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(Notes are here cause I wanted to hyperlink some stuff)

A Hannibal Buress reference? In my writing? I would never.

Originally this was gonna be about Viney discovering the Dead Kennedys, cause, let's be honest, we all know she totally listens to punk too. But then I realized the potential this had for being a Vinira fic, so I switched it to A Tribe Called Quest.

You should check out both those groups. ATCQ is one of my favorite rap groups, and if you're into jazz and cerebral lyrics about Afrocentrism and other neat topics you'd dig them. Here's a few choice picks: We Can Get Down, Find A Way, Jazz (We've Got), and Check The Rhime. (The one this fic is named after and also the one Emira introduces to Viney)

A few other jazz-hop songs Viney would totally like that I picked out can be viewed here: Corner Story by Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Montego Slay by People Under The Stairs, and Rhymes Like Dimes by MF DOOM.

On the complete other end of the spectrum are the Dead Kennedys, my all time favorite punk band. If you like loud guitars, satirical lyrics, and you occasionally feel like throwing a brick at a cop, you'd probably like them. Here are a few selections of their stuff: Let's Lynch The Landlord, Buzzbomb, Kill The Poor, and the always classy Nazi Punks Fuck Off.